24 August 2011

New study suggests dogs can detect lung cancer in humans

There might be a new reason to let your dog get up close with those big wet kisses.

A new study conducted in Germany and published in the European Respiratory Journal, monitored four dogs: two German Shepherds, an Australian shepherd, and a Labrador retriever as they were trained to sniff the breath of 220 volunteers - 110 who were healthy, 60 who had lung cancer, and 50 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

The volunteers were asked to exhale into a glass tube filled with fleece. The study was double-blind meaning that the glass tubes were mixed up so that neither the dog handlers, nor the scientists observing the results knew which vial contained a sample from someone with cancer and which from someone who did not.

The four dogs used in the study were trained for nine months to lie down and put their nose to the tube if they detected lung cancer.

During the test, the dogs correctly identified cancer in 71 of 100 samples from patients who had lung cancer.

They also ruled out cancer in 372 out of 400 samples that were known to not have cancer, giving them a very low rate of false positives, about 7%. This is significant because a common test that is currently used to detect lung cancer - annual rapid computed tomography (CT) scans - have caused controversy because they falsely detect cancer in about one out of four people, leading to unnecessary invasive procedures.

According to a WebMD article, “doctors have previously reported cases in which dogs have alerted their owners to undiagnosed skin, breast, and lung cancers by repeatedly pawing or nosing an affected body part. Some dogs have even been trained to smell low blood sugar levels in people who have diabetes.”

Sara Best | @plantpoweredmom
Sara is currently studying to become a Certified Holistic Nutritionist. She’s also a busy working mom with to two little omnivores and one dedicated carnivore at home. She started her website, Plant-Powered Mom, to help other busy moms and dads reap the many benefits of a plant-based lifestyle while still keeping all the balls in the air and having some fun along the way. Sara lives near Toronto, Ontario. Visit Sara's blog.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/damiansynnott